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Wondering What to do With All Those Fall Leaves?

Leaf Dyed Linen Napkins made using Homemade Plant Dyes

Making Your Own Plant Dyes

Earlier this year I vegetable dyed ribbons for the first time and shared the whole process here. This was such a neat project to try and I was so surprised with the different ways the fruits and vegetables dyed the fibres. As I have been sitting in my living room this week while I work, I look out my window and the tree just outside is turning the most incredible colours. I was inspired to give vegetable dye techniques a try again but using the fall leaves with hopes that maybe, just maybe, I could capture some of the beautiful tones! I have never made homemade plant dyes before but it was much the same as the vegetable dying process. I used a mixture of yellow, red, and orange leaves and the leaf dyed napkins came out the most lovely peach colour – so much more lovely than I expected and the pigment held really well!

Leaf Dyed Linen Napkins made using Homemade Plant Dyes

DIY Leaf Dyed Linen Napkins

As I mentioned in my previous post on vegetable dying (same technique as making plant dyes) this method works best using natural fibres. I love the look of rough linen napkins so using linen for this project was an easy choice for me. I purchased one yard of linen from the fabric store – this was enough for me to make 6 small napkins – about 10″ x 14″ big. Depending on how many napkins you would like to make and how big you would like them to be, the amount of fabric you require will differ. I love linen because it is so easy to cut and, if you are a bit rogue like me (heh), you can even tear it. Regardless of method, I like to leave the edges rough and slightly frayed. If it were your preference you could definitely stitch around the perimeter. Finally, regardless of what natural material you choose to use when experimenting with plant and vegetable dyes, make sure to wash it first so it is pre-shrunk and ready to be washed in the future. Alright, enough of this chit chat, here’s how you make leaf dyed linen napkins!

Leaf Dyed Linen Napkins made using Homemade Plant Dyes

How to Make Leaf Dyed Linen Napkins with Homemade Plant Dyes

  1. Wash and cut your linen to your desired size for the napkins. If you are stitching the edge of your napkins you could do that now or at the end.
  2. Collect fallen leaves from outside that are heavily pigmented – I used yellow, orange, and red leaves and about 30 leaves to get the saturation that I wanted.
  3. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot (one that you do not use for cooking, I have a pot just for dying :)) and add your leaves to the water. Allow the water to simmer for 20 minutes and gently crush the leaves to release colour. If you are making more napkins you will want to use more water and you can definitely experiment with adding more leaves – you can’t really add too much pigment to the water!
  4. While your leaves are saturating the water, wet your napkins with cool water – already wet material will absorb the pigment better.
  5. Remove your leaves from the water, discard them, and place the linen in the pot of dyed water.
  6. Allow your linen to absorb the pigment for about 45 minutes while the water is kept hot but not boiling. Stir the napkins every so often so the colour does not become too  saturated in only some particular areas.
  7. Turn off the water and allow it to cool with the linen still in the water.
  8. Once cooled, over a sink, rinse and wring out the linen. Hang to dry. Your napkins are ready to use!


Leaf Dyed Linen Napkins made using Homemade Plant DyesLeaf Dyed Linen Napkins made using Homemade Plant Dyes

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